Beirut, 09 August 2019 (ESCWA)--On Thursday 8 August, 200 young Lebanese women and men, aged between 18 and 30, got together at ESCWA to mark International Youth Day under the theme “Youth Innovation for Lebanon’s Sustainable Development”. The event was jointly organized by the Ministry of State for Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth (EEWAY), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Lebanon, and a number of UN organizations working in Lebanon.
The opening session was attended by Lebanon's Deputy Prime Minister, Ghassan Hasbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gebran Bassil, EEWAY Minister, Violette Safadi, Lebanese Member of Parliament Dima Jamali, UN Resident Coordinator, Philippe Lazzarini, ESCWA Executive Secretary, Rola Dashti, and Director of International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Caroline Ziade, in addition to representatives of UN organizations in Lebanon, the diplomatic corps and media institutions.
Following the opening, media figure George Eid moderated an introductory panel on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Lebanon’s progress in this regard. Speakers included Sustainable Development Officer at ESCWA Maissa Youssef, Representative from the Prime Minister Office Rawaa Harati and Chief Executive Officer of TechGenies in the Middle East Haytham Saab.
The event focused on three SDGs, namely Gender Equality, Economic Empowerment and Reduced Inequalities. It also offered four separate workshops during which youth discussed interlinkages between innovation and the following themes: gender, economic empowerment, equality and development.
Participating youth in the workshops raised several proposals that can contribute to the implementation of the SDGs, such as revamping the curriculum to include sustainable development courses, building new partnerships with the government and other parties, encouraging volunteerism, establishing electronic platforms to fight corruption, reducing the gap between education and labor market.
Opening statements were delivered by Dashti, Lazzarini and Ministers Bassil, Safadi and Hasbani.
Dashti said that providing job opportunities to avail from the Arab youth synergy is no longer an option but a necessity. “Our youth are a source of wealth and not a burden. Investing in them is an opportunity for us and not a challenge,” she added. Dashti concluded by stressing that “there is no sustainable development in the Arab region if we exclude the youth. Empowering them leads to the advancement of our entire region”.
Lazzarini, for his part, said that Lebanese youth are facing today many challenges as hundreds of thousands of them are unable to find jobs in the country and are seeking for opportunities abroad. “Youth are the hope of the future, you are the example of the vast potential of the country. I believe Lebanon is capable of impressive transformations if all its resources - natural, financial, & particularly human - are mobilized,” he added. Lazzarini said that Lebanese are notorious in the world as innovators and they are renowned for succeeding wherever they go. “It is time they succeed in Lebanon,” he concluded.
Bassil stressed that “youth are indispensable for the present, and the engine of the future. Students of today will become leaders of tomorrow. They are the true fighters against corruption, backwardness and dependency. They were born free, and we, as officials, should protect their freedom to enable them to change the world.” He concluded by saying that no one should obstruct youth and the dynamism they enjoy that helps them overcome all the obstacles they may face.
In her intervention, Safadi said that “gender equality needs nowadays youth innovative solutions and projects, and economic growth requires youth creativity. Development can only be achieved with active youth participation.” She added: “I am a young minister who achieved little, but I dream of a country where social justice prevails, and a homeland in which people, especially young generations, enjoy economic prosperity and their civil rights… I am confident that my dreams are big but not impossible.”.
Finally, Hasbani highlighted the key role of youth in implementing the SDGs around the world, and especially in Lebanon. He said that Agenda 2030 aims at ensuring equality, justice, clean environment, good health, quality education and a peaceful life. “The outcomes of this event will be included in the national strategy for sustainable development, which will be the foundation for the work of all sectors in Lebanon towards 2030,” he concluded.